07/04/2016 Question Time


David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Ilford. On the panel: Anna Soubry MP, Chris Bryant MP, UKIP's Douglas Carswell MP, economist Ruth Lea and novelist Irvine Welsh.

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Good evening. This is Question Time from Ilford, east London.


Welcome to you, whether you are watching on television, listening on


the radio. Welcome to our panel. Conservative business Mr, and --


Anna Soubry. Labour's shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Chris


Bryant. Ukip MP Douglas Carswell. Economist Ruth Lea, and novelist and


author of Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh.


Thank you very much. Before our first question, don't forget


Facebook, Twitter and text. You can comment on, argue with them disagree


with everything said tonight. Our first question which comes from


Michael Bond, please. Is it fair for David Cameron to use taxpayers'


money to support one side of the EU referendum debate? This is the


announcement that a brochure will be given at a cost of just over ?9


million to everybody in the country. Irvine Welsh. No, it is obviously


not fair. It is very unfair and should not be allowed. The same kind


of thing happened in the Scottish referendum. A whole lot of one-sided


propaganda. The same thing is going to happen here. There is no way it


can be justified. APPLAUSE


Anna Soubry. It is absolutely the right thing to do. You expect from


your Government that it should take a view, especially on the most


important decision, I think, that will be taken for actually many


generations, and that is whether we stay in or leave the European Union.


You would expect your Prime Minister and your Government to have a view


and we do. We believe we are stronger, safer and better off in


the EU. I completely agree and I think that this booklet, a copy of


which I happen to have, sets out the arguments and also begins to


establish the facts. When I go out and talk to people, people say they


want to know what the facts are, they want to know what the arguments


are. I think it is the duty of Government to take a lead. Somebody


has to take a lead in this. Be stronger in campaign is excellent


and we are waiting for the opposition to step up to the plate,


too, and make the case, because we have to make that argument. It is


not just about my generation but about my children and my


grandchildren's future. That point is well taken, but Michael Bond's


question was whether it is right to use taxpayers' money to support only


one side of the referendum debate. The electoral commission said today,


we don't think the Government should have done it. They are entitled to


their opinion. They are in charge, organising the referendum. They are


entitled to their view but I think it is absolutely right that the


Government has a view and is prepared to go out and make the


case. You do not mind being rebuked by the electoral commission? We will


have a friendly fallout. Douglas Carswell. It is absolutely not right


that this money is spent, Michael. APPLAUSE


We are told there is no money for junior doctors and GPs but the


Government manages to find nearly ?10 million to tell us what to


think. That is disgraceful. The Government promised during the


passage of the legislation that the Government would not be a lead


campaigner, those are the words of David Liddington on the floor of the


House of Commons last year. It is awful that in the same month that


the Government has found this money in my own constituency a hospital


has been closed -- hospital ward has been closed to save money. And it is


propaganda. It claims Britain has special status in the EU, which is


false. It claims it will allow us to keep control of our borders, which


is false. This is propaganda put out by Number Ten because they are


panicking. They were expecting at this stage to be ten or 15 points


ahead in the referendum. They are starting to panic and doing it at


our expense. What do you mean by propaganda? Do you mean it is lies?


Is that what you are saying? They imply in their pamphlet that in


order to trade with the European Union we need to be in the European


Union and that is demonstrably false. They say we will have special


status in the EU as a result of David Cameron's new deal. Nowhere in


the text of his so-called new Deal is the word special status used.


This is Government propaganda at our expense and it is disgraceful.


APPLAUSE Chris Bryant, is it legitimate for


the Government to say they are backing Remain and are entitled to


put this out? I am not David Cameron's biggest fan on this panel


so it is not my job to defend him. And I can think of lots of other


ways of spending ?9 million in my own constituency in the Rhondda, for


instance. But I watch Question Time nearly every week, I and one of


those sad people. Nothing sad about it at all! You get my point. Every


time Europe is debated there will be a member of the audience who says,


why when people just give us the facts. Yesterday afternoon I was


doorknocking in the hail and sunshine, both at the same time, and


a woman said to me, I just want to see the facts. One fact I want to


put into this, which is that in actual fact, the Government will pay


for both sides, because there is freepost provided to both be in and


out campaign. I am passionate in favour of staying in and I'm sick


and tired of the out campaign only obsessing about process points


rather than getting into the substance of the matter. Because


here is the thing, I start from the fundamental principle, I am a Labour


person and I believe we achieve more by our common endeavour than we do


on our own. That is the same in the European Union. The big issues that


face us as a country, whether climate change, terrorism,


international crime or drugs, whatever it is, we need to be


permanently cooperating on a day-to-day basis with our closest


allies in Europe. That is why I will fight all my life to stay in the


European Union. APPLAUSE


There are a number of hands up in the audience, but Ruth Lea, you can


have your say. Is it fair for this money to have been used for this?


Certainly not. It should not be taxpayers who pay for this. Ahead of


a general election, would you think the Government of the day would use


taxpayers up the money to put out propaganda for the election? Of


course not. And I'm afraid it is propaganda. When you say these are


the facts, they are not at all. I would like to read out what this is


about. It says on the front, why the government believes voting to remain


in the EU is the best decision for the UK. I have to say, I had a quick


look on the website today and it was half truths and misleading


information all the way through. For example, it was talking about a


trade deal with the European Union. I want a trade deal with the


European Union. I'm sure everybody does. Then we would say, I have to


stick to all the rules. Do all the other countries have to stick to the


rules? Does Mexico, does career, do any of these countries? They are not


actually in Europe. But Norway, which as I understand it is the kind


of arrangement you want for Britain... No, it is not. What do


you want, for us to be like North Korea? Excuse me, that is a very


silly thing to say because North Korea does not have a close


relationship with anybody. APPLAUSE


If you would stop interrupting me for half a second, I will tell you.


Let's be honest, I want a trade agreement with the European Union,


of course. And identity any reason why that shouldn't be negotiated. We


are good trading partners now, we have a huge trade deficit with the


European Union and I would have thought any German car exporter


would want to continue with that. I would like to see a trade agreement,


but when it comes to the rest of it, like security, would we be better


off? You ask me what relationship I want and I have told you, OK. You


haven't. I agree the government need to set out their position but I


don't think they needed ?9 million in the 21st-century when they could


have used online social media, and for those that don't have access,


they could have put things in libraries and post offices. So the


money was wasted but the idea isn't wrong. In the second row. I have not


decided which way I am voting but from my government I would have


expected a balanced view in terms of the pros and cons for either


decision. APPLAUSE


Anna Soubry, can you answer that. Why doesn't this have pros and cons?


It is right that the Government has a view. We have a view on all things


and a very strong view on this. Ruth says she wants a trade deal with


Europe but cannot give us the detail. That is not the policy of


everyone that wants to leave the EU. Douglas' leader does not want us to


trade with that single market, 500 million people across the Channel.


And it is really important that we understand what do they want, what


will it look like, because Chris made a very good point. We disagree


on almost everything, nearly everything. We agree on gay issues,


for example. Did you just call me darling? I am so sorry. This is


important because when we talk about the deal of countries like Norway,


they pay the money, get the free movement of Labour and goods, they


pay for all of that but they don't sit in Europe making decisions about


the future of Europe and how it operates. Irvine Welsh, what is your


view of this? In general terms, I have never got too excited about the


referendum one way or the other. I think overwhelmingly people feel


trapped into a global economic system with all these elite bodies,


of which the EU is one, the IMF, the World Bank would be others. Their


own governments would be others. To me, it seems to be whether citizens


get shafted more easily within or outside the EU, it seems to be two


elites arguing about the best way to impose neoliberalism and a debt


economy upon the citizens of this country. Do you think it is right to


offer the choice in a referendum, or are you saying it is a spurious


choice? It is spurious because life goes on very much in the same way.


We have seen how the global economy operates to the advantage of very


few people and the disadvantage of many. But you can't defend the EU as


an institution. You can't defend something that is undemocratic,


something that is led by commissioners rather than... If you


had a vote... Do you have a vote? I don't. I probably would not bother.


If you forced me to vote, I would vote to leave, basically.


It will be really interesting to see what the Leave side would do if they


had the money. It seems another cheap joke that they can throw to


say the Government's doing this, but what can they do, they are getting


taxpayers money too, they should use it. They have got enough business


interest that they could easily fund it. Douglas? One of the reasons why


I think this leaflet is so unfair is precisely because on this one


leaflet, the Government will spend ?9.3 million, that is more than the


entire budget of the vote Leave campaign. That vote Leave budget has


to be raised entirely through doe nations, it's not taxpayers money.


By law, we are not allowed to spend more than ?7 million on that. Before


the referendum's even formally begun, the other side's had more


money on this one leaflet than we'll have through the entire campaign. I


think that's unfair. APPLAUSE.


The woman on the left? I wish they'd been in business, some of these


people, because I traded with Europe right the way through my working


life and we didn't have to have these trade agreements you are


talking about. You talk nonsense. Frankly none of you have ever had a


proper job which is a bit of a problem and if you had, you would


understand what I'm saying to be true. If you work for Europe,


they'll want to trade with you and they will not turn away good




So you're not concerned, or you are voting Brexit? I'm voting Brexit


everything and I'm going to follow Liam Fox's advice and when they


are... Has he had a proper job? He was a doctor at one point. I'm going


to post the leaflet back to David Cameron in Number Ten so they can


read them themselves. Exactly. We have all got the address.


Absolutely. The man with spectacles in the third


row from the back? It's really quite ironic, we usually expect our


Governments, when they can't, to be able to step up, have a few


difficult decisions to take and when it comes to this when they have take


an view on what should happen on June 23rd, everybody goes off


complaining and I find that very, very strange this. Debate I think is


too narrow on the whole. Not just about trade and, by the way, I think


we need to focus on geographics a little more. The reason why we trade


so much with the European Union is because we are only 20 miles off


Calais and we are joined by a tunnel and the reason why we have a trade


deficit with the European Union at the moment is because we are very,


very unproductive as an economy, we are not producing enough high wage,


high skill jobs that we need to compete, but this is more about the


economy. This is about how we work with others where a decision that's


made over in Shanghai affects our daily lives here. I would prefer to


have some influence and a decision, a choice, in how that is arranged,


rather than isolate myself, insulate myself, invite these problems along


so an extent it will cost far more in the long run to deal with them


until we have finally got the message? You? Douglas Carswell, my


hero! A man speaks up. I'll tell you what, that ?9.3 million should not


be used as a piece of Government propaganda, it should be invested


back into the British people. You know, I read a recent statistic,


9,000 veterans, what are we doing about them? That ?9.3 million should


be going to them. The junior doctors, the NHS, our own people.


Not being invested into a piece of propaganda.


APPLAUSE. All right. A man who speaks up in


the audience too, thank you very much. I think at this stage, we want


to take a brief... I know Douglas is very worried there won't be an even


playing field. Frankly with the Sun, The Telegraph, the Times and the


Mail, daily pumping out fibs and lies about the European Union, it's


time we had proper information. I would point out that the owners of


the newspapers are not resident in the UK paying tax.


Are you sure about that, because I think they could sue you? Where does


the owner live... Why did I say that? Where does Rupert Murdoch


live? I don't know, darling. America. Fair enough. I'm not going


to challenge you ever again! To blame newspapers for holding points


of view with which Chris disagrees, surely the fact that the newspapers


have those views reflects what the readers think and want. No. No. You


know perfectly well it reflects the owners, the proprietor's views, not


the views of the British people. APPLAUSE


Ruth Lea? That doesn't make sense. I was going to comment on something


Anna was saying, she was talking about Norway and you were talking


about Switzerland. When we leave, as I hope we will leave, the British


Government will negotiate a British settlement for us. It won't be


Norwegian or Swiss, but British. Let's not beat around the bush, we


have a lot of leverage in the negotiations. The idea that we are


going to be some pathetic supplement is absolutely absurd. They need us


and we need them and we want to cooperate. My goodness me, we don't


need to be in the European Union to be able to do that.


APPLAUSE. Ten hands up at the moment, I'll take one point from you


because you've got the tallest hand, yes? Oh, thank you.


If... No, no, no, you haven't got the tallest hand, you have. Be brief


if you probably would. I believe we do want to say the same thing. ?9.3


million on a Government pamphlet, not sure of the contents because I


believe it's being distributed next week, to put it in context, this


country's contributing roughly ?350 million a week to the European Union


and what are we getting in return? I voted in the 1975 referendum. I've


been pro-European for many years. But in recent years, my mind has


changed. I'm going to vote to leave the EU.


OK. All right. APPLAUSE.


We are going to go on. Thank you very much. The only thing I would


say, the Institute for Fiscal Studies who we all reveer, says the


actual figure is not ?350 million, but ?154 million when you deduct the


benefit that comes. I say that in a disinterested way just to correct


the point. But we need to move on to another question because we have a


lot more questions to Comptonite and we have already had 20 minutes. If


you want to come and take part in this chaos of Question Time during


this run-up to the EU, we are going to be in Doncaster next week and we


are in Exeter the week after that. So you can apply via the


A question from Michael Manuel, please? Can we ever have a just and


fair society when it seems that only the little people pay their fair


share of taxes? APPLAUSE.


So, Panama raises its head. Anna Soubry? Well, there's a statistic


which I thought was very interesting. I think it's very


important as well. The top 1%, the most wealthy people in our nation,


pay 28% of all the taxes that we collect. So whilst I agree with you


that obviously there are devices and schemes which actually we have


cracked down on, we introduced 40 measures in the last Parliament to


close off these loopholes, but it often looks like the rich can escape


from paying taxation, taxation. We have got another 25 measures I


believe it is for the next Parliament. We are doing all the


things we should be doing. The most important thing is that everybody


should pay their tax. You are absolutely right, it doesn't matter


who they are, everybody should do it. No offshore tax havens, is your


view? I think if you live in this country and you earn income and you


have money that you accrue, you should pay your taxes. Now, where


you choose to invest your money is a matter for you, but when you are


earning income and if you sell assets and therefore you have


capital gains tax by way of example to pay, those are the things that


you should do. That's why, as I say, we have introduced these measures,


we are raising billions of pounds, because we are closing off all the


Liverpool hopes that have frankly existed for previous years under


grieve previous Governments, we are doing that and that is the right


thing to do. Chris Bryant? What a load of nonsense that was. I mean


really. APPLAUSE. It's absolutely clear,


there's one rule for the very, very rich and another rule for the rest


of us. We all have to pay our tax through PAYE. Some people get to pay


expensive people to find a way around it. We don't know. Anna's


completely wrong, we don't actually know how much people are paying, the


very wealthy pay on their tax because 8% of the world's wealth is


hidden in offshore tax havens. So why didn't you change that? We


did... So you undid it... The FT did a close survey of the tax avoidance


measures uncovered by Blair, Brown and recent Governments, they found


that the Blair Brown Governments done four times as much, they


brought in ?100 billion of unpaid tax thus far and in particular what


really disturbs me is first of all, that we introduce add very effective


measure, the disclosure of tax avoidance schemes measure. We


strengthened it at every point since 2004 when we introduced it and the


coalition Government in 2010 started watering it down. David Cameron


lobbied at the European Union to say that their personal private trusts


shouldn't be open to the same transparency rules as for


corporations. I disagree with that. We should all be in this together.


Chris, under Labour... Come back on this? Under Labour,


rich people didn't pay stamp duty. Under Labour, millionaires and


billionaires paid less tax than their cleaners were paying. Under


previous Labour Governments, we had loophole after loophole propped up


by your party that failed to do these things. That's absolutely what


we stopped doing, 40 measures raising ?2 billion in extra taxes.


We are the ones who cleared up your mess. You said you were going to do


that. Now it's clear we are not going to get a quarter of what you


said. You said you got rid of the tax havens in the overseas


territories. When I was minister, I refused to allow them to continue


their tax haven status if they wanted to borrow more money which is


what they wanted to do. The moment we lost power in 2010, your


Government came in and said, no, you can borrow as much as you want and


remain as a tax haven. Do you want to have direct rule in these places,


the Virgin Islands, go to war and take them back? I can think of, you


know, I can imagine Pitcairn island would love to have Boris as its


Governor Nomplt we should consider very, very closely what we do in


relation to our overseas territories. We still have a


contingent liability where they are trading on the same name. We


shouldn't be allowed to continue without transparency. Bermuda, the


Turks and chaos, Pitcairn, they are all doing it. I was the last


minister in charge who said that to impose direct rule in Turks and


Caicos because of the massive corruption there in 2009. The woman


second row from the back? Will the Government be challenging the names


with the same vigilance as it does benefit claims? Ruth Lea? Benefit


claimants get looked at very carefully, will the rich be looked


at as carefully? When Anna said the top 1% of taxpayers pay a high


proportion of the tax bill, she's right, they are taxpayers. The


trouble is that such a lot of them squirrel away their dividends in the


Chris havens Chris was talking about. I take your point, I'm not


disagreeing with that. I think that you were referring to the gentleman


with the original question, thinking about the Panama papers and this


curious legal firm called MossackFonseca or whatever it's


called, that was dealing with all these people who're obviously


dealing with the tax havens, many of which are overseas territories, I


think half the dealings that they were dealing with were actually


British Virgin Islands which is overseas. But do you think it's


right this should be allowed to happen? No. People perfectly legally


do that. President Obama said an interesting thing, saying it's legal


what's been going on, but that's the problem. I think the problem is


because they are secret and there is a lack of transparency it covers the


legal which is avoidance or even aggressive tax avoidance which is


strictly legal. There is money-laundering, dodging sanctions


and the like. This comes back to the point Chris is making, you need


absolute transparency in these particular tax havens and then at


least you know whether they are legal or whether they are illegal


transactions. We need specific new policies to end


the division that has come about in our society. The tax returns we all


make should be made public, so I can see your tax return, Mr Dimbleby,


and you can see mine. This could obtain throughout the whole country


and we could look carefully at those who are not paying what appears to


be the right tax. It may well be then that we can get in touch with


the tax office and say, would you be kind enough to investigate this


person because it appears they are paying too little tax. Irvine Welsh,


would you like to see that? I think it is inevitable and probably the


tip of the iceberg everything that has happened in the last 15 years.


It is such a strange thing, when you look at what has actually happened


and the response of people involved. The great tragedy for them is that


they have been caught. This is the whole problem as far as they are


concerned. You can bet every resource will be going into making


sure the public do not get that kind of information again that they got


in the Panama leaks. This is probably the last we will hear of


this for a while but you can bet it will continue to keep going on. Have


you ever been tempted to put your money in the Virgin Islands from


Chicago? The Virgin Islands is too far away so I would probably go for


the Cayman Islands. You have been tempted that way? Not really, no.


When I lived in Dublin, writers were exempt from tax. The thing is, it is


not about individuals. If the system is set up for greed, encouraging


people to act on greedy impulses, human beings are complex, not only


about greed, but all sorts of emotions, but if an economic system


is setup to be based around greed and avarice, you get these outcomes.


Human beings are violent but we do not want war of the time to satisfy


that. We have to have some kind of balance, some kind of controls on


people's base instincts. Right now we don't have that in the global


economic system. Is that why you lived in Dublin, so you couldn't pay


taxes? No, I live there because my wife was there. Many writers did


move there because it had a special tax regime. I remember saying to


Roddy Doyle in a pub, how can you live here and not pay tax? He is


born and bred there. The guy who is pulling your pint of Guinness is


paying an exorbitant amount. And there I was, when I moved to Dublin.


I thought, every other writer is not paying tax, so I should do the same


thing. When the system is rigged like that, you are in the position


that you are a mug if you don't take advantage. He just laughed in my


face and said, now you are here, you will take advantage. He was right


because that is the way it operates, but the system should not operate


like that, being about somebody deciding who has money deciding if


they want to take part in it or not. Somebody deciding to sell their


conscience by giving to charity. It is not enough. People should be


compelled to pay the correct amount of tax. People are right to feel a


sense of anger. The lady at the back said with the government go after


people not paying tax the same way as someone fiddling benefit. I was


hoping a woman in my constituency today who is being chased by HMRC


and bailiffs for their mistake in overpaying her child tax credit. I


hope they go after some of those who have not paid their full share of


tax in Panama and the British Virgin Islands. The question is what to do


about it. Unless we colonise every small island on the planet and


impose world governance, we are going to have to recognise that we


cannot stamp out tax havens. How do we minimise the damage and minimise


the unjust system? First, pushed tax havens to disclose. In fairness to


David Gauke, and I don't want to trigger the squabble again, but the


current Treasury minister has done good staff in terms of pushing some


of these havens. British Virgin Islands now has to report to 29


different tax authorities which it did not have to do before. Second,


we have to remove the incentive to use a tax haven. We have had four


budgets in the past two years. Every time, George Osborne announces his


wealthy is going to try and grab. It could be peoples pension pots. It


Pastis at one stage. If we had less arbitrary tax and lower tax there


would be this incentive. If there is an opportunity of paying no tax,


however low the tax is, people will go for that. If you remove the


incentive... The incentive is 10% tax, 20%? If you push tax


jurisdictions to disclose, I don't think people would be willing to


take that risk. You, sir. We used to have an act in 1947 controlling the


movement of money. Why don't we bring that back again? Why was it


repealed? The Thatcher government repealed it in 1979. Along with a


series of other things which deregulated, one of the things that


Thatcher bequests to the modern era, they deregulated so much this was an


inevitable result. There is an increasing perception that there is


a ruling class that is beyond the law. Because they are the ruling


class they can preserve things for themselves. I am concerned this


country is becoming less democratic, because those in the corridors of


power can manage things to ensure the perpetuation. As I said, I don't


think we disagree that in the last government we collected an


additional ?2 billion of money because we tied up 40 of these loops


that enabled people who should have been paying tax not to pay. We have


another 25 measures. If you speak to those who have used devices to avoid


paying tax, they will tell you how the taxman is now coming after them.


We have seen in the last five years ?2 billion of extra money coming in


from people who have avoided it. We have a general GT that means these


sort of avoidance schemes are no longer allowable. -- a general duty.


I don't want to deal with this squabbling but it has to be said


that it is a fact that under the last Labour government there were


all sorts of schemes that were absolutely promoted in order for


people to defer taxation and not pay at the right time. That is a fact.


The truth is that the moment you close one loophole or introduce a


tax, someone will employ a lawyer somewhere to find a way round it.


The proof is that all political parties should get together and


agree that we want to put an end to this. David Cameron's example this


week has not been brilliant on transparency. It is not just about


the tax arrangements but also about knowing who owns what. It is


interesting how much the United, the president of the United Arab


Emirates opens in London. We only know that because of this


revelation. A lot of people in other countries of the world are furious


with their leaders who have been stealing money from them, taking it


elsewhere, and all political parties in this country should be making


sure our embassies overseas are the best example.


Coming back to the Prime Minister, do you think he has now explained


sufficiently for your purposes his tax affairs, to satisfy you that


there has been no wrongdoing and no tax avoidance on his part? It has


been classic Cameron. It has had to be dragged out of him by wild


horses. Remember when he said he had never gone riding with Rebekah


Brooks, and then, maybe he had done but he could not remember if she was


there, and in the end he could remember and even remembered the


name of the horse. That is exactly what we had this week. Of course I


am not satisfied and I don't suppose a single person in the country is


satisfied. APPLAUSE


At the beginning of the week he said was a personal matter, then he said


he was not benefiting at all, then he said he and his family were not


benefiting, and then he said they would not benefiting future, but


forgot to mention that they had been benefiting in the past.


APPLAUSE Why didn't he own up at the


beginning if he hasn't done anything wrong? Can we just establish


something. The Blair more holdings, and forgive me, David, I think you


were putting that into the same category as tax avoidance schemes


and offshore dealings. That was actually an investment fast,


perfectly legitimate, Robert Peston and others have written about the


legitimacy of it. In 2006 it actually produced a brochure so


investors could invest in it. You paid tax and capital gains tax. That


is exactly what David Cameron did. In 2010, when he became Prime


Minister, you got rid of his holdings in it. He paid the capital


gains tax on that. He has not done anything wrong. Hang on, you are


interrupting. It is very important, if you are talking about tax


avoidance. We can have a debate about that, but this is not a tax


avoidance scheme. It is an investment trust, open, honest and


write unlawful. There was a big distinction between that and tax


avoidance. He did it just before the election. I will tell you why. This


was not someone who did something wrong and was getting rid of it


because there was nothing illegal, morally or legally about investing


in this trust. So why didn't he say so on Monday. He got rid of


everything when he became Prime Minister and now he is saying he


will publish his tax return and other party leaders should do the


same. Do you want to answer the point that it took him a week to get


to the point of saying in the future his family would not benefit, so in


the past maybe they had by implication. To be honest,


understandably the spotlight was put on his late father. He was dragged


into it and there were slurs made against him. I have to say, if it


had been my father I think I would have called back and frankly not


wanted to talk about any of it because I would have found it


hurtful. I had no interest in Ed Miliband's father either. I was much


more interested in Ed Miliband and I am more interested in David and who


they are and what they stand for today, not about their parents. I


promised I would union. One of the reasons the little man pays is that


David Cameron was asked in April 2012 to publish his tax returns and


he still hasn't. We have a Chancellor who can stand proudly. We


have Google who pay more tax in France, get more money in Britain.


It doesn't add up. We have disabled people losing ?30 a week. If


anything, it is because of the current Government. Until he can


publish a Budget which holds everyone, not just the top 10%,


nothing will change nothing will work. We only have a quarter of an


hour left and I want to go on to this next topic, a question from


Caroline Jones. Hello. The microphone is over your head. Should


the Government nationalise the British steel industry? Chris


Bryant. Not necessarily as its first step, but it might need to keep that


as a possibility on the table. I represent a seat in south Wales


which used to have a single industry that dominated. It was cold in my


case. I drive past Port Talbot frequently and I have constituents


who work in the still works there. -- the steelworks. For those of you


who think we should not bail out steel, think hard about this. There


are presently people paying taxes who would then be in receipt of


benefits. If we can afford to bail out the banks, we can afford to bail


out steel. APPLAUSE


I don't want us to suddenly go back to the 1940s and say we will


nationalise steel and keep it forever in state control. Government


ministers are not particularly good at running businesses. But I think


it was wrong of the Government to take this off the table. I also


think, to be honest, that Sajid Javid, when he seems to suggest this


came as a surprise to him, if he had sat in Prime Minister's Questions


the week before when Stephen Kinnock, who has done a very good


job in representing his constituents, said to the Prime


Minister, next week there will be a decision in Mumbai where they will


decide on the future of the steelworks in my constituency, he


could have heard that and then he might have gone to Mumbai instead of


Australia. Back to Caroline Jones' question.


Should the Government nationalise it. You seemed to say yes, possibly?


I don't think we should take it off the table which is what the


Government are saying. We need to do a proper due diligence, get all the


facts and figures in relation to the business together. Secondly, we


should stop bowing to China. I'm sick and tired of all this business


trying to get market status economy for China when they have been


dumping steel at way less than it costs to produce and taking people


out of jobs in this country and incidentally that's another reason


for me why we should stay in the EU because I think we only stand up to


China if we are alongside our colleagues in the European Union. I


think the Government will have to put some money on the table. I'm


very proud of Carwyn Jones, the leader in the Welsh Assembly,


because he's already put ?60 million on the table from the Welsh


Assembly. That's a large amount of money. What do you say to what Anna


Soubry sitting on my right said, which is that nationalisation is an


option. She said, I make clear we should look at all options. I like a


lot of the things Anna says on this subject. The trouble is, actually


the implementation of them. I don't understand why the Government was


campaigning against tariffs in the European Union that other


countries... That's not true. That's not true. I don't know why on 29th


February Anna voted against a motion in the House of Commons and Douglas


didn't even bother to turn up. You lose people by this kind of thing.


Let's just deal with the question of steel and the future of the steel


industry. Because we have made it very, very clear that steel is a


vital industry and we'll not leave any stone unturned in our absolute


determination to do everything we can, not just to keep rolling it,


milling it and producing it but actually making steel and notably


both at Scunthorpe and Port Talbot. I'll put my hands up and say that


there's a lot of stuff that perhaps we haven't talked about that we


should talk about and I can't talk about everything, but I want to make


some points absolutely clear. First of all, we've been looking - I mean


a proper, hard, long look since October - led by Oliver Letwin, a


group of ministers including myself, at how we can first of all secure


the making of steel at Scunthorpe and then in more recent times long


before last week, how we can make sure we continue to make steel blast


steel in Port Talbot. That work's been going on. I can't talk about


the detail of it because as you will understand, a lot of this is


incredibly commercially sensitive. So what happened back in September


was that we had a steel summit and the industry and the unions - and I


want to say something about the Trade Unions that represent


steelworkers - brilliant, skilled remarkable men as they usually are


and a few women as well. The Trade Unions throughout all of this have


been outstanding and I want to pay tribute in particular to the


communities Trade Union and their remarkable leader. So we've all


worked together. The industry quite rightly said, we've got five asks


because we want a level playing field, some of which Chris has


identified, like tariffs, for example. We've delivered on four of


the five asks. The only thing we've not delivered on is sorting out


rates. Hopefully we might get there. When it comes to tariffs, I can tell


you I was the minister who, in the face of the advice from my officials


that we should vote against them, I said no, we will vote in favour of


tariffs on steel products, wire and then rebar and a number of other


products we have done in conjunction with the European Union. I agree


with Chris, we are better off in the EU. Including tariffs on Chinese


steel? Well, yes. It was opposed? No, this is not true! We voted in


favour. In fact, such was the shock in the EU commissioners that were


sitting there, they went back to the UK delegation to check the vote so


we have done it twice, we did it in July and in November. As a result of


that, the imports, for example, of rebar, have now plummeted to 90%, so


this dumped steel, notably from China but from other countries as


well, is already reducing because of the action that we've taken in


conjunctionion with other countries, that is what we are doing and we'll


continue because we are determined that this country will carry on


making steel in our brilliant steelworks with those excellent


workers. Ruth Lea? The steel industry is


really in difficulty and I'm very surprised to hear Anna talk about


tariffs in that particular way because my understanding was that


the European Union wanted to bring tariffs in at about 45%, or up to


that. The UK were one of those countries that blocked it. I'm


afraid that's not true. I read that. I'm the minister responsible and I


promise you we've been arguing in favour of higher after the rifles on


some steel. Sorry was but I am the minister, I know the vote and I know


what we've done, Ruth. I think you are talking about the lesser duty


rule. All right. Ruth Lea? Am I allowed to continue? Sorry. Because


I actually read that in a business committee report and it was a


business committee report that came out at the end of last year so


perhaps the report was wrong, but that's where I actually saw it. It


was on the Government response to the steel crisis. But putting that


aside about the tariffs, there is no doubt that China is selling very,


very cheap steel at the moment and it was exacerbated by the strong


value of the pound, so the real steel industry had this enormous


competitive disadvantage against the Chinese. Out of which of course they


do have extra expenses the Chinese don't or other countries indeed many


the European Union don't in the sense that energy costs are so much


higher here. Can I drag you back to the question which was about


nationalisation? Well, this was recognised by the Government some


time ago that, they took their time in actually bringing these energy


packages in. But the problem is, we are where we are and the steel


industry have got all these problems and the question really has to be


now, how much of the steel industry is going to be realistically


economically viable. Let's see if the Government can get somebody to


buy Port Talbot? I think it's true that the steel plants in Scotland


have been sold and there is another buyer who will buy Scunthorpe. But


the big one of course is Port Talbot. Let's just see if they can


actually sell that. They'll have to provide sweeteners, no doubt about


that. You are talking about help on energy and pensions and probably


help on environmental liabilities. But let's hope they can find


something. The person on the front? Why has the British Government left


it so long to intervene within the steel market if you have known


there's been a crisis for so long, why have you not intervened with


Tata Steel before? Why is it that you are only doing it now? Is that a


criticism you would make? I think the Government's been on the back


foot on this. Let me be clear, I wouldn't support the nationalisation


of steel for the same reasons I opposed every bail out of the banks.


I don't think putting people like politicians in charge of an industry


is going to make it any better. There are three reasons why I think


steel production in this country is in the sorry state that it is and


three big failures on the part of the Government. Port Talbot makes


good steel, it's a world class product. But there are three things


that make it virtually impossible for them to earn an honest living by


producing what they produce. It's a very energy intensive industry and


being in the European Union means the energy costs of producing steel


in Port Talbot make it almost impossible to do so competitively. I


think we need to leave the European Union and reduce the cost of energy


on our industry. That would have an impact.


APPLAUSE Secondly, China has imposed I think


I am right in saying a 46% tariff on steel. Now, when the Chinese


President visited this country, George Osborne was very, very keen


to get them to sign up to a nuclear deal which incidentally adds to the


cost of our energy. I wonder if he used what clout we might have to


negotiate and force China to be reasonable. I think perhaps because


we are so fixated with trying to get Chinese investment in the nuclear


sector, we are not using the leverage we have. The ?2 billion


pension liability hasn't been discussed for Port Talbot, the price


we pay of having... A bit more than 2? The pension deficit, the unfunded


liability is ?2 billion I think I am right in saying. If you look at what


successive Governments under first of all Gordon Brown and now George


Osborne have done, they have introduced rates to virtually zero.


We discover pension funds haven't been able to keep up with their


future liabilities. We are starting to see the in Port Talbot a huge


pension liability and this is the price we pay of having a Chancellor


who believes that low interest rates alone can have an impact, it's the


price we pay for Os-Brown economics. You, there? As regards the pensions,


that was because the legislation was changed about what pension companies


could own. Most Canadian teachers pensions own high speed railway, the


Canadian teachers pension own huge assets in the UK. Sorry, let's stick


to steel and Port Talbot? The point made about the energy cost if we


pull out of the EU, then the energy cost would go down. We can't produce


enough energy for what we news now, we buy most of it from Europe, via a


big pipe. You, in the blue shirt? About slamming the stable door after


the horse has bolted but what about the rest of the UK manufacturer. We


have a major stills shortage so how are we encouraging people to study


science, technology, engineering and mathses? -- maths. Caroline Jones


who asked the question. What do you think? I agree with Ruth Lea about


the EU. I've heard there is a 9% tariff on the steel that's imported


from China. America imposes a tariff of 244%.


The point is whether or not you get the right effect and the effect is


that we have seen, for example, on rebar, we have seen a reduction...


You will have to explain that? Reinforced bar, you can see it in


concrete and it's made in Cardiff. The point is, when we put the


tariffs on, we saw a reduction of 99% of steel. On energy prices we


are paying out tens of millions in compensation back. So from 2017,


we'll exempt all our energy intensive industries from two of the


three green taxes that have undoubtedly taken the action. The


Government are considering nationalising steel. It's nonsense.


Absolute nonsense. It's a very different thing with the banks. I


mean, the banks, you know, the banks is part of the ecosystem of


exploitation and it's based on debt, it's like the Government's


controlled citizens through international money. The banks were


too big to fail. The steelworkers for all this rhetoric about how


normal and fine they are, all that patronising stuff, they don't give a


toss. It's not draw actually. It is actually, do something about it.


So you are saying that I think... I think it's a big test for Labour in


terms of their credentials. They have to show how serious they are.


Basically it's like, if the Government nationalised the steel,


it's basically the beginning of the end of the neo-liberal project, it


can't be allowed to happen under this Government. It's a big test for


Labour and Corbyn. Will they have the gumption to do something like


that. We don't want old-fashioned nationalisation. Surely the most


important thing is to stabilise the company now, get enough time to be


able to get a proper package in and I say one thing to Anna, I was


delighted what you said about Trade Unions, I just wish you would now


withdraw the Trade Union bill which is attacking Trade Unions. You


always have to make a tribal point. Tribalism in Westminster politics


and between your party and his is something we are quite used to on


this programme. It does however sadly bring us to


tend of this programme because our time's up. We have to stop now. We


are going to be in Doncaster next week With David Davis, the


Conservative backbencher among those on the panel. The week after that,


we are in Exeter. So Doncaster and Exeter. If you want to join the


audience, you can apply at the website address there or call the


number on the screen. If you have been listening or are


listening on Five Live, the debate goes on on Question Time extra time.


Thanks to the panel, to all the audience members. Until next


Thursday, good night.


David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Ilford, East London. On the panel: Conservative business minister Anna Soubry MP, Labour's shadow leader of the House of Commons Chris Bryant MP, UKIP's Douglas Carswell MP, economist Ruth Lea and novelist Irvine Welsh.

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